And easy-to-make version of the classic coconut-cream pie.
My favorite childhood photograph is of my mother, my sister and me on Easter morning. We are dressed alike in matching spring coats, hats and gloves, holding our Easter baskets. But I remember that as tempting as the candy in the basket was, all I could think of was the luscious coconut-cream pie my grandmother had made for dessert.
For me, that pie was magical, with its homemade flaky crust and rich silky custard. It spoke of home, of leisurely enjoying a slice. Pies still inspire me today.
My grandmother’s coconut-cream pie is made from a cooked custard similar to a crème anglais, which is thickened with egg yolks and cornstarch. The thick custard then is poured into a prebaked pie shell, topped with meringue and baked. But as much as I love that pie, I felt the need to tinker. I wanted the same flavors, but with less work.
I kept the prebaked — or properly called blind baked — pie shell. It’s the key to ensuring the crust is flaky, not soggy. The easiest way to do this is to form the pie dough in the pan, then set a sheet of parchment paper on it with dry beans or weights holding it in place. It then is baked until golden, then cooled. (Discard the dry beans or save them for another blind baking need; do not eat them.)
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My version of coconut-cream pie is perfect for anyone, especially those new to baking pies because the custard is simply stirred together in a bowl, then baked in the shell. I also add a little fresh orange to the custard to complement the coconut and remind me that warmer weather is near.
Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern-foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including “Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned.”